More than 56 Democrats are planning to skip Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress this morning, which probably has the Israeli prime minister pretty pleased. Instead of having to deal with the optics of having only half of his audience rise to applaud his denouncements of the Iran nuclear talks — many congressional Democrats think Speaker of the House John Boehner should have asked the White House before inviting a foreign leader to speak, especially since Israel’s Parliamentary elections are only a few weeks away and negotiations with Iran are ongoing — it will look like everyone in Congress agrees with him.
Netanyahu is accustomed to massive applause from American lawmakers. The last time the prime minister spoke to Congress in 2011, the BBC tallied 28 standing ovations during the 47-minute speech. The New York Times wrote that “Mr. Netanyahu received so many standing ovations that at times it appeared that the lawmakers were listening to his speech standing up.”
Netanyahu’s 1996 address to Congress ended with a five-minute standing ovation, which, according to the Times, prompted him “to joke about his own volcanic Parliament, ‘If I could only get the Knesset to vote like this.’” The speech brought Congress to its feet at least 12 times.
Although statements are surely already being drafted by those lawmakers who are not quite so enthusiastic about Netanyahu’s speech this time around and plan to watch the speech on C-SPAN, the photographs and video clips from inside the Capitol that will become the most widely used assessment of the event’s success will show Netanyahu’s relationship with Washington remains unchanged.